red bellied piranha

Are Piranhas Carnivores?

With a fish that possesses a set of interlocking razor sharp teeth and a reputation for frenzied attacks, it seems an appropriate question to ask.

So, are Piranhas carnivores? In short, no, Piranha are omnivores not carnivores. The most common Piranha, the Red-Bellied variety, will scavenge and forage for food during the seasons in the Amazon basin. Their diet mainly consists of worms, insects, crustaceans, fruits, seeds, plant matter and other fish. A carnivorous fish would only consume the flesh of other animals. As their diet includes vegetable matter they are considered omnivores as a species. However, some individual varieties of Piranha are exclusively herbivores.

Definition Of Carnivore

Rather critically, to define what Piranhas are, you have to look at the appropriate definitions.

Broadly speaking, an animal will fall into one of the three categories, carnivore, omnivore and herbivore.

The definition of a carnivore is;

an animal that feeds on flesh. Lions and tigers are carnivorous.

Definition Of Omnivore

On the other hand, the definition of an omnivore is;

an animal or person that eats food of both plant and animal origin. Bears and coyotes are omnivores.

As are Piranha.

2 red bellied piranha swmming

Piranha Are Omnivores As A Species But ……..

Piranha are defined as an omnivore, because as a species they eat both meat and vegetable matter.

In the Amazon basin, Piranha will feed on fish, fruits, seeds, insects, worms, plant matter, crustaceans, snails, and will scavenge carcasses they come across.

In an aquarium their diet should be replicative of their natural diet. So frozen fish, worms, insects, spinach, potatoes, or zucchini.

The most commonly kept aquarium Piranha is the Red-Bellied Piranha, which is omnivorous. However, not all Piranhas are omnivores, some are exclusively herbivores.

Very recently, a new Piranha was discovered in the Amazon basin. The Tometes camanani Piranha was found in the fast flowing Amazon river. It’s a big Piranha, growing to 9 pounds in weight and feeds exclusively on the plant matter found within the river.

What Should You Feed Piranha?

As a feeder in the wild, the Piranha is primarily a scavenger and forager for food. An instinct that serves them well during the dry season when food is scarce. During this season, the water levels drop and their access to food gets more limited. This increases natural stress levels.

The Piranha will then be much more of an opportunistic feeder and forage for all manner of foods, both fruits and animals. Other fish are in much more danger during the dry season.

In an aquarium, the environment is much more controlled. You can vary the diet enormously, feeding vegetables, fruits and meat based products.

If you are keeping Red-Bellied Piranha in your aquarium, feeding then a diet based on their omnivorous nature is best to keep them healthy.

red bellied piranha in an aquarium


In summary, Piranha as a species are omnivores. If they were carnivores, which most people assume they are, they would only consume animal flesh.

In addition to any meat based diets, Piranha naturally will feed on plant matter, fruits and seeds.

Thus if you are ever responsible for feeding Piranha, a mixed diet of both frozen fish, frozen meats and potatoes and fruits as well as spinach and zucchini will keep them healthy.


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